Trips home usually get me re-interested in family history.
My most recent trip home was more history-focused than usual. We were gathered for a three-day celebration of my mother’s 90th birthday. A cousin came in from Canada for the occasion, so there were new stories and new questions. Lots of paperwork was pulled out, and lots of guesses were made about what the German, Italian, Bulgarian and Czechoslovakian documents said.
We looked at photos as Mom took educated cases about who some of the people were, or what the occasion was. And as we took pictures of the current birthday celebration we laughed that in 90 years our ancestors will be looking at the photos trying to guess who all the people are and what the occasion is. (Remember, your digital photos need to be labeled just as much as your physical photos!)
Our history is important to us. Our legacy is something that we can help shape. We are both descendants and forebears at the same time.
If you were in church on Sunday, or if you are reading this week's E-Courier in a timely fashion, you'll know that we are distributing a congregational survey. We'll collect the surveys this coming Sunday, and we really hope that everyone will participate.
These surveys are part of the work that the LEAD team is doing. LEAD stands for Living Every Day as Disciples. An assessment that many of you participated in during the spring tells us that we are a "becoming" church: we are seeking to identify where God is calling us in our own unique context. If you're interested in the specific answers to the assessment questions you can see anyone on the LEAD team (Ann Warner, Bob Linderman, Michele Torchia, Karleen Strayer, Pastor Jason.)
The assessment was an overview. Now the LEAD team wants to listen to you in more detail, first through your answers to the surveys, then through “cottage meeting” gatherings we are planning for October and November.
Did you know that St. Stephen's is celebrating its 130th birthday this year? 130 years ago Thomas Edison was beginning to explore the concept of sound film. Susan B. Anthony organized an International Congress for Women's Rights, leading to the formation of the International Council of Women. Blizzards killed over 600 people along the East Coast and in the Dakota Territories. The Brighton Beach Hotel was moved 520 feet to save it from ocean storms. Ernest Thayer published the poem "Casey at the Bat." Jack the Ripper murders started. The Kodak camera was patented. The Washington Monument opened to the general public. Vincent van Gogh cut off the lower part of his left ear. And our faith-filled ancestors formed the new worshiping community of St. Stephen's Evangelical Lutheran Church.
What will be said about our country and our congregation 130 years from now?
Things have changed a great deal in the last 130 years. Over that time are there traditions and values that St. Stephen's has developed that are too important to change?
How has our history helped position us where we are in the neighborhood?
How has God helped position us where we are in the neighborhood?
And as the forebears of the church 130 years from now, who are we, what are we doing, and how will that impact the future of St. Stephen's?
History is important. We are where we are because of the actions taken by our ancestors. The steps that we take now will guide where we will be in another 130 years. In 130 years, will our descendants look at this picture and wonder who they are and what they are doing? (Lower left, clockwise: Jacob Sperati, Rev. Katherine Cartright Knodel, Lauren Fritschel, Josh Sperati, James Cook, (I don't remember!), and Brittany Price at a 2005 youth overnight activity.) Will we know how the church impacted their lives? Will we know what impact they had on future lives?
Please take time to thoughtfully answer the survey. If you didn’t get a copy, click here. There will also be copies available on Sunday.
There are no right answers. There are no wrong answers. There are only the answers that tell us what you know and feel about St. Stephen's. It doesn't matter how long you've been a part of St. Stephen's. Your voice is important. We need to hear from long-term worshipers and new worshipers what you feel are the strengths and weaknesses of St. Stephen's. What has brought us to where we are, and what will carry us on the next steps of our walk with God in the community?
- Ann Warner